Phyllis, Sharika, Althea, Curtis, Gerri – Navigating Barriers to Reentry

Navigating Barriers to Reentry is an online resource designed to help ameliorate the collateral consequences of incarceration by empowering returning citizens to take control of their lives, their futures, and ultimately their financial security. It is designed to be a self-help resource to empower those in reentry or struggling with past criminal justice involvement, their families, and those who work with them by providing the needed information to navigate the many legal and policy-driven barriers that prevent successful reentry. It Is a user-friendly tool where information can be easily accessed in one place and provides examples, checklists, needed legal forms, and instructional “how-to” information necessary to understand and navigate the barriers. Although it is designed for self-advocacy, our online chat sessions, how-to videos, and assistance from trained reentry professionals provides a rich environment for support. Collaborating with other like-minded organizations, we envision economically healthy communities where reentering citizens are productive and valued members.

Our awesome team is made up of Phyllis Trettien, Sharika Townsend, and Althea Parker – Offender Workforce Development Specialists and correctional education teachers – and Mr. Curtis Moore, a reentering citizen, and Gerri Oakley – event coordinator. Together, we have many years of experience inside prisons trying to prepare people for release. During our work together, it became apparent that what we were teaching inside to prepare people for release and employment did not address the reality of their needs on the other side of the fence – and the many barriers those returning face as they reenter their communities. Frustrated with the difficulty of accessing information that might be helpful, we decided to create the online resource Navigating Barriers to Reentry where needed information, checklists, and forms would be easily accessible. It has been a helpful tool to those helping returning citizens. We are now creating a curriculum that will be taught through online short videos on the website – Reentry 101 – and in correctional education programs designed to prepare inmates for release. We believe reentry should begin inside before release and that information should address the reality of the barriers that willl be faced so that returning citizens have the best possible preparation and chance to navigate them successfully.

We are so grateful to The Pollination Project for helping us take an idea born through research, observation, and first hand experience and making it a reality. The initial seed grant was used to build the online resource and from there we have moved forward at a rapid pace – collaborating and sharing with other organizations, assisting people through the website with issues ranging from expungements to help with employment applications. We learn more every day and are determined to grow this project to meet the expanding needs of those in reentry. The initial seed grant gave us the support and belief that we could do this. I think that was the most important part of this grant – knowing that your work was believed in and important to others. Without the initial seed grant, the project would have continued to be a discussion of – “what we really need is . . .. “

With the generous Impact Grant from The Pollination Project, we will develop a curriculum that will address the most pressing barriers to reentry – Reentry 101. We will offer this on the website in short videos addressing various topics which will help more people access the information by providing the information in different modes. We will also create a curriculum with activities to be taught inside prison in pre-release programs, employment readiness programs, and within community organizations. We believe this will not only help those in reentry, but will be helpful professionals and organizations working in the field to help returning citizens. We are excited to move this project to the next level and grateful for support and belief in our work!

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